Washington: The US may have suffered its first military casualty in operations against IS militants in Iraq and Syria when a Marine was lost at sea in the Persian Gulf.
Corporal Jordan L. Spears, 21, was lost at sea after bailing out of a MV-22 Osprey when it appeared it might crash.
He was declared dead after search and rescue efforts to locate him were unsuccessful, US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement yesterday.
Asked how Spears death will be classified, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters the question was still being decided.
"Clearly, that squadron and that ship were in the Gulf, supporting Central Command operations. Some of those operations included operations in Iraq and Syria, at least tangentially, through at least some tangential way, support to those missions," Kirby said, according to a transcript.
"So there's no question that -- that this Marine's death is related to the operations that are going on, in some form or fashion."
Even so, he said he did not know whether the Marine's death would be formally classified as such. The branch of service typically determines how a service member's death is classified.
The military has not detailed the Osprey's mission at the time of the incident, which remains under investigation.
The Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft, was deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group "supporting operations in Iraq and Syria and throughout the region," CNN reported, quoting the statement.
Spears, a crew chief, went missing on Wednesday when the Osprey lost power shortly after takeoff from the USS Makin Island and dropped toward the water, according to the Navy.
Spears and another crew member went into the water when it appeared the Osprey was about to crash, the Navy said.
The pilots managed to get control of the Osprey and land it safely, according to the statement.
Search and rescue crews found one crew member in the water, but were unable to locate Spears of Memphis, Indiana, it said.
"US forces in the North Persian Gulf suspended a search and rescue operation for Spears Oct. 2, after efforts to locate him were unsuccessful," according to the statement.
US-led forces have been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State group fighters since they seized large stocks of heavy weaponry from fleeing Iraqi troops when they captured Mosul in June. They took more when they overran the Syrian army garrison at Tabqa air base in late August.